I am writing a business letter to a German lawyer (however it is not about law). Normally I might address the salutation in German as "Sehr geehrter Dr. so-and-so." However, this figure is a Rechtsanwalt and Notar. How might I properly address the letter? "Sehr geehrter Rechtsanwalt so-and-so" sounds so strange.

"Sehr geehrter Rechtsanwalt so-and-so" sounds so strange.

Why do you think you should need a specific address about their profession?

"Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. so-and-so." is just fine.

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    @Jason: you would only use Dr. if that lawyer has that degree. If not, you would use whatever other title(s) or degree(s) he has or simply "Herr So-und-so". In other words, the degree or degrees are used, not the profession. – Rudy Velthuis Mar 2 at 22:30
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    @πάνταῥεῖ: I would rather use "Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Plüsenpüsch", instead of just "Sehr geehrter Dr. Plüsenpüsch". – Rudy Velthuis Mar 2 at 22:32
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    What about leaving out these titles and degrees? – LangLangC Mar 2 at 22:43
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    @Jason Depends if that person has a degree as Prof. or Dr. in jura. – πάντα ῥεῖ Mar 3 at 0:26
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    This doesn't sound strange in Austria. If someone os Rechtsanwalt, Notar or Ziviltechniker, then you are advised to address him/her as »Sehr geehrter Herr Rechtsanwalt Dr. Mayer« or »Sehr geehrter Frau Notar Dr. Huber« or »Sehr geehrter Herr Ziviltechniker Dipl.-Ing. Bauer«. If someone also has a Berufstitel (like Hofrat), then it is: »Sehr geehrter Herr Hofrat RA Dr. Schmidt« (RA is abbreviation for Rechtsanwalt) – Hubert Schölnast Mar 3 at 7:05

The salutation depends on your level of acquaintance with the addressee. If you have never met him, the usual, most formal salutation is

Sehr geehrter Herr Besenstrunck

If he happens to have a doctorate (Ph.D., or whatever) and is entitled to call himself a doctor (usually you see this on his business card) then it is

Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Besenstrunck

or similarly with other title prefixes such as Dr. Dr., Dr. mult., Dr. h.c., Prof. Dr. But you would probably avoid clustering too many titles, so in cases of Prof. Dr. mult. Dr. h.c. you can still try to be less bombastic and simply write

Sehr geehrter Herr Professor Besenstrunck

This is possible because it is also as you would politely/officially turn to such a person in oral communication. You do not say "Ah, Guten Tag Herr Professor Doktor Doktor honoris causa Besenstrunck".

However, if you are more familiar with him, you may feel inclined to leave out the titles and still call him just

Sehr geehrter Herr Besenstrunck

This may not be taught so in business schools etc., but I see that it is more and more common practice.

If you are on a cordial level with him, but still using the "Sie", it would not be unusual to write

Lieber Herr Besenstrunck

Or, unnecessary to say, if you have agreed on using the "Du", you would write

Lieber Max

Note: there is no difference in addressing a lawyer, a dentist, a plumber or a facility manager.

There are specific rules that are used in official communication with people like ambassadors, cardinals and other high clergy, cabinet ministers, heads of states, heads of universities, etc. For such persons there are various fancy titles such as Exzellenz, Eminenz, Hochwürden, etc., and then there are various traditional forms how to address aristocracy (Majestät etc.), but this would be relevant for you only if you a) want to play with it b) are part of these circles of society and want to use traditional forms of politeness c) if you are a member of the diplomatic corps or other state entities dealing with such persons. In everyday live as well as in standard business situations this is practially irrelevant.

You can look up the various titles and their use-cases in the internet; there are plenty of resources for that. You can use the search term "Anrede".

Note also that I refer here to habits in Germany. For Austria, where things are sometimes different, please read Hubert Schölnast's comment to Panta Rei's answer.

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